Guilderland school board: Blanca Parker

Blanca Parker

Blanca Parker

GUILDERLAND — Blanca Parker says she appreciates the education she got in the Guilderland schools and she’s running for the school board both because she wants to give back and because she thinks she can help make improvements.

She and her husband are Guilderland graduates and two of their three daughters are now in Guilderland schools, at Pine Bush Elementary and Farnsworth Middle School. Their eldest daughter is taking courses at Hudson Valley Community College in a program where she will get a high school diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time.

Parker worked as an emergency medical technician for the Western Turnpike squad, became a nurse, and has a master’s degree in public health from the University at Albany School of Public Health. She has a background in infectious diseases with certificates in disease surveillance and emergency preparedness, she said.

She formerly worked for the New York / New Jersey Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center, focusing on active shooter and hurricane preparedness.

Safety, Parker believes, should be the school district’s first priority. The pandemic, she says, “is an opportunity for us to grow together” in having a plan ready for future disasters, making curricula ready to convert to remote learning. Even for a snow day, she said, the schools could get funding for a school day if learning still took place at home.

With the budget, Parker said, some folks feel like taxes are going up but they don’t have a clear idea of where their money is going and at the same time are hearing that teachers have to dip into their own pockets to pay for school supplies.

Parker said she grew up in poverty and is sensitive to “money being tight in a household.” She wants to be sure money is allocated to what taxpayers feel is important.

As for remote learning, Parker said it isn’t for everyone. Even looking at her own children, she can see different learning styles — from independent pursuits to in-person needs.

Although it’s scary, she said, schools have to be prepared, when future disasters occur, to be able to teach remotely. “We could probably identify what students absolutely need the hands-on,” she said.

Parker said she comes from a family of educators — her father was a professor at the University at Albany — so she says she’s heard the need for “in-person” teaching.

“Bill Gates really, really knows his stuff,” Parker said, “when it comes to public health.” He knows about community outreach, education, and training, she said, and he is innovative with technology. New York could become the gold standard for education nationwide, she said.

Parker currently works for New York State and Civil Service Employees Association Partnership for Education and Training, which administers the benefits that have been negotiated between the union CSEA and the state. 

 She believes negotiating with the unions is the way to go if state aid to schools is slashed. “The unions are aware and they want their voice to be heard. Sometimes you can really accomplish a lot with a conversation,” she said.

As a school board member, Parker said, she would put students first and wouldn’t want to cut programs or faculty as Plan A.

When it comes to Guilderland’s model for inclusion, Parker said, every decision needs to be re-evaluated. She’s heard from parents for whom the model works well and also from parents who say it hasn’t worked for their children.

Parker said the model should be assessed and she suggested perhaps using the two-teacher model, combining regular education with special education students, in some classrooms and not others.

Parker believes a school-life balance is important. We may have lost our way, she said, with some students so focused on getting into college and “working, working, working, working.” 

“The pandemic has taught us to take a step back and think about what really matters,” said Parker

She believes there is too much homework in middle school, which is redundant and takes away from the joy of learning, which then leads to independent learning. Parker also believes the school district needs to focus on more than academics and should deal with issues like bullying.

She also favors a later high school start time that is more in tune with an adolescent’s biological clock.

Finally, Parker said that, through her work, she has learned about needed jobs in the trades and skilled labor where there’s a shortage. She feels those career paths aren’t highlighted in school.

Students with those interests should be encouraged, she said.

“I think there’s room to offer innovative or alternative learning programs for things like welding, public service, farming trades and skilled labor, carpentry.”

It would benefit both society and the students, she said.

More Guilderland News

  • Between Dec. 29 and Jan 4, the Guilderland schools had 21 new cases of COVID-19, according to an email Superintendent Marie Wiles sent to GCSD Families on Monday evening.

  •  The owners of Pollard Disposal Services of Altamont in a note to customers  said in part, “We are writing this letter with excitement and dismay … It has come time to retire. The waste removal business is ever changing. New regulations and insurance requirements are weighing heavy on us. After looking around, we have decided to sell the waste company to Twin Bridges Waste and Recycling,”

  • GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland schools learned of seven new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Superinten

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